Senate duo announces bill protecting 1.56M acres of Arctic refuge

A bipartisan Senate duo introduced legislation on Wednesday that would section off 1.56 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness.

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote Hillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote Senators call on McConnell to bring net neutrality rules to a vote MORE (D-Wash.) and Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkEx-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby The global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year MORE (R-Ill.) bill would protect the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain, which is the last of the original refuge without the wilderness designation.

The legislation would also preserve minimum hunting and traditional uses.

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"The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a national treasure that must be preserved for future generations to experience and enjoy,” Cantwell said in a statement.

"I'm proud to join Senator Kirk on this bipartisan bill to protect one of the last pristine public lands in America. We need to advance forward-looking solutions for America’s energy future, while preserving this treasured public land and the unique ecosystem that depends on it."

Conservation groups applauded both senators.

"Senators Kirk and Cantwell have long been the Arctic Refuge’s defensive champions, protecting it from threats of oil and gas drilling in both chambers of Congress for many years," Cindy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said in a statement.

"With today’s introduction of this Wilderness bill, they now assume the role of Arctic Refuge’s offensive champions as well," Shogan said.